The inspiration that is my grandad

Today is the anniversary of the death of my grandfather. My favourite person in the world, and the man who is responsible for the businessperson I have become. It is the 18th of June and I am sitting here working late, sipping a whiskey in his honour.

About six weeks before his death, my sister called me to tell me the news. She was the only person who could summon the strength to call me – everyone knew I would be heartbroken and no one wanted that job. I called him right away and he was his usual positive self, despite the fact he had terminal cancer.

I had the chance to tell him to hold on – my son would arrive soon. He was due in six weeks time. He promised me that he would.

As it turned out, my son was born almost four weeks early; he arrived in May. We were in hospital and at Birthcare for a week, and then home for a week of getting used to our new reality. The first chance we could, we bundled up my son and braved the road trip three hours south to my grandfather’s home. I have one photo of my Grandfather with my son, and it was the last time I saw him. He was over the moon. He was gone a couple of weeks later – and had my son not come early, he wouldn’t have met my amazing grandfather. I trust that he knew he needed to get here ahead of schedule.

I want to share some stories about the man who gave me my inspiration and encouragement through books…

I first started working full-time when I was 15, pumping gas while I was still at high-school (a good, honest job for a teenager and it taught me a lot about customer service).  When I left school at 16 I tried my hand at a variety of jobs; one of which was a door-to-door selling job, which was tough and where I often went hungry for weeks at a time (I had left home by this stage too).

Cold calling, and door-to-door selling, is the true coal-face sales apprenticeship. The shitty, really tough kind of introduction to what it means to have your efforts closely tied to your ability to eat. He said “What are you doing for work?” I said “I’m a sales person.” To which he replied, “that’s wonderful! I was a salesperson for many years. Keep going; you can do it.”

The next time I saw him he gave me a book on how to become a better salesperson.

Every time, without fail, following conversations at different stages in my life about what I was doing, he gave me a book about how to be better at it. No judgment, just encouragement. That’s what was most special about that man. No matter what you were trying to do, he never questioned whether you could do it, he just gave a book on how you could do it better.

I got a letter in the mail the day before he died, it was a letter from him to my new born son, saying he wished he could have been there for him but wanted to give him some advice before he left us: “Be honest, kind and thoughtful to other people and always keep a positive attitude. Life is ahead, not behind you. Never give up on your dreams.”

While usually I like to talk about practical advice, real-world things that forge the way we do business, I think perhaps the statement above is the truest lesson one can learn. The words of a dying man, thinking only of other people. The best thing we can do is be honest. Be kind. Be thoughtful to others. Keep a positive attitude. And always look forward – focused on our dreams.

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